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Desert Pathfinder At Work: Sub-millimetre APEX Telescope Inaugurated At Chajnantor

September 26, 2005
European Southern Observatory (ESO)
The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) project celebrates the inauguration of its outstanding 12-m telescope, located on the 5100 m high Chajnantor plateau in the Atacama Desert (Chile). The APEX telescope, designed to work at sub-millimetre wavelengths, in the 0.2 to 1.5 mm range, passed successfully its Science Verification phase in July, and since then is performing regular science observations. This new front-line facility provides access to the "Cold Universe" with unprecedented sensitivity and image quality.
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An image of the giant molecular cloud G327 taken with APEX. More than 5000 spectra were taken in the J=3-2 line of the carbon monoxide molecule (CO), one of the best tracers of molecular clouds, in which star formation takes place. The bright peak in the north of the cloud is an evolved star forming region, where the gas is heated by a cluster of new stars. The most interesting region in the image is totally inconspicuous in CO: the G327 hot core, as seen in methanol contours. It is a truly exceptional source, and is one of the richest sources of emission from complex organic molecules in the Galaxy (see spectrum at bottom). Credit: Wyrowski et al. (map), Bisschop et al. (spectrum).

After months ofcareful efforts to set up the telescope to work at the best possibletechnical level, those involved in the project are looking withsatisfaction at the fruit of their labour: APEX is not only fullyoperational, it has already provided important scientific results.

"Thesuperb sensitivity of our detectors together with the excellence of thesite allow fantastic observations that would not be possible with anyother telescope in the world," said Karl Menten, Director of the groupfor Millimeter and Sub-Millimeter Astronomy at the Max-Planck-Institutefor Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) and Principal Investigator of the APEXproject.

Millimetre and sub-millimetre astronomy opens excitingnew possibility in the study of the first galaxies to have formed inthe Universe and of the formation processes of stars and planets. Inparticular, APEX allows astronomers to study the chemistry and physicalconditions of molecular clouds, that is, dense regions of gas and dustin which new stars are forming. Among the first studies made with APEX,astronomers took a first glimpse deep into cradles of massive stars,observing for example the molecular cloud G327 and measuringsignificant emission in carbon monoxide and complex organic molecules(see ESO PR Photo 30/05).

The official inauguration of the APEX telescope will start in San Pedro de Atacama on September, 25th.

TheAmbassadors in Chile of some of ESO's member states, the Intendente ofthe Chilean Region II, the Mayor of San Pedro, the Executive Directorof the Chilean Science Agency (CONICYT), the Presidents of theCommunities of Sequitor and Toconao, as well as representatives of theMinistry of Foreign Affairs and Universities in Chile, will join ESO'sDirector General, Dr. Catherine Cesarsky, the Chairman of the APEXBoard and MPIfR director, Prof. Karl Menten, and the Director of theOnsala Space Observatory, Prof. Roy Booth, in a celebration that willbe held in San Pedro de Atacama.

The next day, the delegationwill visit the APEX base camp in Sequitor, near San Pedro, from wherethe telescope is operated, as well as the APEX site on the 5100m highLlano de Chajnantor.

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The above story is based on materials provided by European Southern Observatory (ESO). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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European Southern Observatory (ESO). "Desert Pathfinder At Work: Sub-millimetre APEX Telescope Inaugurated At Chajnantor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 September 2005. <>.
European Southern Observatory (ESO). (2005, September 26). Desert Pathfinder At Work: Sub-millimetre APEX Telescope Inaugurated At Chajnantor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 28, 2015 from
European Southern Observatory (ESO). "Desert Pathfinder At Work: Sub-millimetre APEX Telescope Inaugurated At Chajnantor." ScienceDaily. (accessed April 28, 2015).

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